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Catherine Jansen

Photographer · Sculptor
Born 1945

"I have learned that the hungry eye is always rewarded. I take multitudes of photographs, which I later weave together into more complex images. I have found that photographing and then merging images taken from several angles and perspectives gives a closer echo of the experience then a single recording of it."

"Discovering the universal in the mundane is always a delicious experience. It often hits me suddenly, in the disjointed positioning of my children's bodies, the folds of a piece of cloth, or the sound of the dishwasher. Catching me unguarded, I become paralyzed with awe."

--Catherine Jansen

Though she began her career as a painter and sculptor, Catherine Jansen did not feel as though she was truly expressing herself until she began using cloth and photography in her work. Jansen refers to her multi-media work as soft sculptures. She begins the process of creating a soft sculpture with original and found photographic imagery that she copies on a color Xerox machine and then assembles to create visual collages. Jansen then prints the images onto heat transfer paper and applies them to cloth. Cloth is an especially significant material for the artist. She states:

Men, and especially women, have been working with cloth since the beginnings of civilization. Next to food, cloth is the most intimate of the things we use on a daily basis. It's the first thing we're wrapped in when we're born, and the last thing on our bodies when we die. We wear it, walk on it, sit on it, and sleep on it. In most cultures it has been women who have made these cloth articles, and with the scraps they had left over they made their art. So when I work with cloth in my home, I feel that I am a link in a long chain of mostly anonymous female artists.

Jansen treats these images on cloth in a variety of ways, often times sewing them into soft stuffed replicas of the original copied items. Her first soft sculpture, a bedroom installation titled Stuffed, Stitched, and Sewn has been displayed by the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York and was reproduced in the book Frontiers of Photography, part of the Time/Life series. She later created Blue Room in 1970, another soft sculpture that utilized full-scale photograms of people and furnishings in a manufactured bedroom environment in which the majority of the objects were created out of fabric. The work has been widely exhibited both in Bucks County and throughout the country before becoming a part of the James A. Michener Art Museum's permanent collection.

Jansen,s earlier work typically depicted domestic subjects such as her home, children, and gardens, but her subject matter has evolved over time, reflecting changes in the artist's life. Her later work includes photographs of people and environments taken during Jansen's many international travels. Through such photographs she allows the viewer a glimpse of her own wandering lifestyle and of varied scenes from all over the globe. In expanding the scope of her photographed subjects Jansen has in turn expanded her own domestic space to include many places far beyond Bucks County.

In addition to her photography and soft sculptures, Jansen has created costumes for stage productions. Most notably, she coordinated and designed the costumes for the play "Copernicus," written by the artist's close friend Robert Marcelonis and performed at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June 1994. Her created costumes are very sculptural in form, include contemporary photographic imagery, and have been displayed in museums such as the Painted Bridge and the Owen Patrick Gallery, as well as at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Jansen has been exhibited in Parting Gifts: Artists Honor Bruce Katsiff, Director/CEO, 1989-2012 (2012), Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self (2012), and Catherine Jansen: Images from the Mind's Garden (1993) at the James A. Michener Art Museum. The Blue Room was shown for the second time at the Museum in the 2017 exhibition Light and Matter. 

Video by Jim Thornton for Michener Art Museum Creative Hand, Discerning Heart artists videos (2012)

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